Friday, October 15, 2010

Tips for Pitching Stories to the Media

Thanks to all who participated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic regional networking event for IAAPA public relations and communications professionals! The event was held at Hersheypark and included lunch, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and speaker Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, a freelance travel and tourism writer. Amusement parks, FECs, and ski resorts were all represented and we had a lot of productive discussions.

Here are a few pitching tips from Marilyn:
- Personalize the pitch. Read the writing of the reporter and understand their interests.
- Point out what makes it different.
- Look for current trends or local events that relate to what you are pitching.
- Include key facts and messages as bullet points in the body of the e-mail and attach the full release.
- Timing is important. Don't forget some publications require information months in advance (like IAAPA's own FUNWORLD magazine!).
- E-mail pitches, don't call.
- Build relationships. Be accessible.
- Return phone calls.

Thanks again to all who helped make the day a success. We learned a lot in planning this and look forward to holding similar events in 2011.

Monday, October 4, 2010

ADA Update and Opportunities to Learn More

The final regulations codifying the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were published Sept. 15. These final rules will take effect March 15, 2011. Compliance with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is permitted as of Sept. 15, 2010, but not required until March 15, 2012. For existing facilities, barrier removal needs to be conducted to the extent “readily achievable” by March 12, 2012.

The U.S. Department of Justice has prepared fact sheets identifying the major changes in the rules. IAAPA members should look at the Title III highlights for a sense of what the new regulations include (quick review: Title I of the Act deals with employment practices; Title II is for government facilities; and Title III is for "public accommodations," which is what attractions are). Members may also find it helpful to review the summary of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

Members should familiarize themselves with the new rules and consult their attorneys and ADA consultants to determine what changes (if any) need to be made to make your facilities compliant.

Here are a few items of interest to the Attractions Industry:
1. Miniature Golf — At least 50 percent of all holes on a miniature golf course must be accessible. These accessible holes must be consecutive, and they must be on an accessible route. The last accessible hole must be on an accessible route that connects to the course entrance or exit without going back through other holes. Sections 239.2 and 1007.3 of the 2010 Standards require at least 50 percent of golf holes on miniature golf courses to be accessible, including providing a clear floor or ground space that is 48 inches minimum by 60 inches minimum with slopes not steeper than 1:48 at the start of play. (Note: this is the same as the guidelines previously published by the U.S. Access Board.)

2. Amusement Rides — Many newly designed or newly constructed amusement rides must be accessible and located on an accessible route to the ride. However, amusement rides designed primarily for children, amusement rides that are controlled or operated by the rider (e.g., bumper cars), and amusement rides without seats, are not required to provide wheelchair spaces, transfer seats, or transfer systems, and need not meet signage requirements. That said, these rides must be on an accessible route and must provide appropriate clear space.

3. Service Animals — The rule defines “service animal” as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals. The final rule also clarifies that individuals with mental disabilities who use service animals that are trained to perform a specific task are protected by the ADA. The rule permits the use of trained miniature horses as alternatives to dogs, subject to certain limitations. To allow flexibility in situations where using a horse would not be appropriate, the final rule does not include miniature horses in the definition of “service animal.”

4. Wheelchairs and Segways — The rule adopts a two-tiered approach to mobility devices, drawing distinctions between wheelchairs and "other power-driven mobility devices." "Other power-driven mobility devices" include a range of devices not designed for individuals with mobility impairments, such as the Segway PT, but which are often used by individuals with disabilities as their mobility device of choice. Wheelchairs (and other devices designed for use by people with mobility impairments) must be permitted in all areas open to pedestrian use. "Other power-driven mobility devices" must be permitted to be used unless the covered entity can demonstrate that such use would fundamentally alter its programs, services, or activities, create a direct threat, or create a safety hazard. The rule also lists factors to consider in making this determination. This approach accommodates both the legitimate business interest in the safe operation of a facility and the growing use of the Segway PT as a mobility device by returning veterans and others who are using the Segway PT as their mobility aid of choice.

5. Play Areas — Play areas designed, constructed, and altered for children ages two and older in a variety of settings, including parks, schools, childcare facilities, and shopping centers, are covered. Accessible ground and elevated play components, accessible routes, ramps and transfer systems (typically a platform or transfer steps), and accessible ground surfaces must be provided.

Upcoming ADA Information Sessions
Mark your calendars!
1. Free webinar on the ADA for IAAPA members: Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1 p.m. Representatives from the U.S. Access Board will give a presentation on new regulations for attractions including miniature golf and will be available to answer your questions. Don’t miss this invaluable chance to hear from the agency that created the guidelines.
2. “The ADA and the Attractions Industry,” Tuesday, Nov. 16, 3:30 pm, as part of the education sessions at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2010. Hear ADA experts discuss the new rules and their impact on miniature golf, amusement rides, and other attractions. Bring your questions to this informative session!